1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
I Timothy 3:1-7
In this passage, Paul tells Timothy that there are particular expectations that a pastor is to meet. Paul doesn’t say that these are optional. He adds a “must.” These aren’t qualifications for justification, but for the Christian office of overseer. The pastor must be above reproach. This doesn’t mean that the pastor should be without sin. That’s impossible. After all, the Christian life is marked by a recognition of sin and trust in Christ to forgive that sin. Instead, he should not have a bad reputation before anyone. And this is outlined for us by the proceeding qualifiers. 1. He should have one wife 2. Sober-minded 3. Self-controlled 4. Respectable 5. Hospitable 6. Able to teach 7. Not a drunk 8. Not violent, but gentle 9. Not quarrelsome 10. Not a lover of money 11. Manage his household well 12. Keep his kids under control with dignity 13. Not a recent convert 14. Well thought of by outsiders. If someone doesn’t meet these qualifications, it means that they ought not be an overseer. It’s not difficult. It doesn’t make them more justified before God to meet these qualifications, and it doesn’t make them less justified if they don’t. It just means that they should not be a pastor.
Unfortunately, this list doesn’t seem to matter too much to some people. They’ll be a pastor anyway. I spend the majority of each day listening to sermons, lectures, etc. and am constantly confronted with pastors who continue to preach, despite not meeting the list. Some had been engaged in adulterous relationships while preaching, were caught, thrown out of their church, and almost immediately, opened up a new place. Some aren’t as blatant as that. Instead, they seem to capitalize on the controversial. They’ll have sermon series with names that arouse our sinful natures – names like F-Bomb, Victorious Secrets, Go Elf Yourself, World’s Largest Strip Club, Between the Sheets, Bringing Sexy Back, and Grow a Pair. Both provide great resources for those in and out of the church to point and shake their heads in bewilderment.
Mark Driscoll is no stranger to controversy. When I first heard of him, years ago, he was being called the “cussing pastor” because of the course language he once used behind the pulpit. If I’m not mistaken, he has since apologized for it. I’d spent a while listening to his sermons, and noticed that he seemingly loves to say things that are shocking. I didn’t mind at first, and actually really liked a lot of what Driscoll had to say. I think part of the allure was that he was so abrasive in a culture that is so easily offended by that sort of thing. I was a regular listener to the Mars Hill podcast. But as the years went by, I started disliking more and more the things he had to say. And I eventually just stopped listening. I still followed what he was doing, and the controversies that followed. I remember when he made the statement that “cessationism” was worldliness. In fact, he made the point that even a soft cessationism (the sign gifts have ceased, but God could still cause them to happen whenever he wants) was worldly. He made some shocking statements regarding his vision casting church model. A few years back, James McDonald’s the Elephant Room 2 conference was a huge deal. In it, Driscoll grilled TD Jakes on the trinity and eventually embrace him as a brother, despite Jakes’ adherence to modalism. Last year, there was the Strange Fire conference controversy where he showed up to hand out and sign books. And now he is embroiled, yet again, in controversy regarding his recent book, A Call to Resurgence:Will Christianity Have a Funeral Or a Future?
Perhaps you’ve heard some of the news about Driscoll’s book and the methods he’s employed to promote it as well as the methods he used to write it. In fact, I’d be surprised if you haven’t because it’s being talked about by Christians and non-Christians alike. Given the widespread clamour over the book, I had decided to not comment about it and let everyone else do the talking. But all of this has gotten the dusty old cogs in my brain to start spinning. Years ago, I saw danger in some of the things Driscoll said. I made mention of it, to no avail. It’s a dangerous day we live in when pastors become celebrities, and, in turn, can do no wrong. Well, they can do wrong, but they’re wrongdoing is easily overlooked. It is easily ignored. I remember thinking to myself that Driscoll would probably get worse and more controversial. And, boy, did he ever. Throughout church history, the church has called out heresy over and over and over again fighting for the integrity of the Scriptures. Should we be any different? So, I decided to write this article in order to briefly highlight some things about Driscoll that should freak us out, and should ultimately cause him to step down.
1. Vision Casting
It’s probably no surprise to you that Driscoll is a vision casting leader. Seems like everyone is these days, huh? I’ve discussed the topic here many times before, as this was something that was taught to me in Bible college. Vision casting is the unbibilical ecclesiastical practice of praying to God to give you a vision for your church and then having the church exist in order to “catch” that vision and run with it. The vision isn’t a visual sort of thing, but a “goal” or “mission.” In other words, ignore what the Bible says the plain “boring” duties of a pastor are (preaching the word in and out of season, making disciples, administering Lord’s Supper and baptism). Instead, adhere to a CEO model of leadership in a Christianese type of way. Ask God for a “goal” for your church, he impresses one on your heart, and that becomes the church’s mission statement. And since this vision is from God, if you question it, you are ultimately questioning God. It’s subjective and wholly unbiblical. Sure, verses like “Without a vision my people perished” are used to support the view, but this verse is torn out of context from the Old Testament and almost always half-quoted. For a fuller explanation on vision casting, click [here]. I’m not accusing Mark of being a cult leader, but having a leader who hears a unique and personalized message directly from God and steers the church in that direction, is the stuff cults are made of.
Don’t think it’s that bad? Think that Driscoll is open to correction when it comes to his vision? Consider Mark’s words back in October 2007 concerning two guys he had fired from Mars Hill:
‘Here’s what I’ve learned. You cast vision for your mission; and if people don’t sign up, you move on. You move on. There are people that are gonna to die in the wilderness and there are people that are gonna take the hill. That’s just how it is. Too many guys waste too much time trying to move stiff-necked, stubborn, obstinate people. I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus and by God’s grace it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done. You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options; but the bus ain’t gonna stop. And I’m just a—I’m just a guy who is like, “Look, we love ya, but, this is what we’re doing.” There’s a few kinda people. There’s people who get in the way of the bus.’ … I’m doing it right now. I’m doing it right now. We just took certain guys and rearranged the seats on the bus. Yesterday we fired two elders for the first time in the history of Mars Hill last night. They’re off the bus, under the bus. They were off mission so now they’re unemployed.”
Listen to the audio:
2. Elephant Room 2
Do you remember the whole Elephant Room 2 Conference fiasco a few years back? James McDonald had his second annual conference, and had invited many speakers, including Mark Driscoll and TD Jakes. I can’t think of a more familiar face in the Word Faith/prosperity gospel world than Jakes. Are you familiar with him? If not, check out this 4 and a half minute video of Jakes telling people they need to obey God by giving money in order to reap blessings from God:
But that wasn’t the main reason people were freaking out, and justly so. It’s because TD Jakes is a modalist. That is, he believes that God is one being (God) and one person (Father or Son or Holy Spirit). Instead of the orthodox view of God being one being (God) and 3 persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), Jakes believes that God is one person who manifests Himself 3 different ways. I had done a ton of writing on this conference at the time it occurred. You can check out various articles I’ve written on the topic [here]. So, what does this all have to do with Driscoll?
Well, it isn’t guilt by association. That wouldn’t be fair. Just because these guys preached at the same conference doesn’t mean that they believe what the other teaches. Mark Driscoll actually grilled TD Jakes about the trinity. Surprisingly, neither he or McDonald ever brought up the prosperity gospel despite both having been very critical of it in the past. Anyhow, Driscoll drilled his modalism. And the conversation led to Mark asking this:
We all would agree that in the nature of God there is mystery. But within that, for you, Bishop Jakes, the issue is one God manifesting Himself successively in three ways? Or one God existing eternally in three persons? What is your understanding now? Which one?
I believe the latter one is where I stand today. One God – Three Persons. I am not crazy about the word persons though. You describe “manifestations” as modalist, but I describe it as Pauline.
In other words, TD Jakes said, yah I believe in trinitarianism, as long as by “persons” you mean “manifestations.” That, along with Jakes saying earlier in the conversation that he became a Christian in a Oneness church, caused pretty much everyone to believe that Jakes was still a modalist. Well, everyone but Driscoll and McDonald. For many people, the whole thing came off as a strange attempt to get orthodox folks to embrace TD Jakes for whatever reason. Whether Jakes is a modalist or not, still doesn’t leave this thing to rest. Let’s say that TD Jakes has an orthodox view of the Trinity. He still handles the Bible like a blind butcher. He’s a Word Faith prosperity preacher. Again, this is something that both Driscoll and McDonald have identified in the past as a false gospel. Yet, are we supposed to believe that they had no idea who Jakes was? Shouldn’t you scope someone out before you invite them to speak at your conference? This seeming lack of discernment isn’t fitting for a pastor who should be calling out false teachers and protecting the sheep from wolves. The guys over at Wretched put together a video of statements made by McDonald, Driscoll, and Jakes. It speaks for itself:
3. Strange Fire
Driscoll showed up at the Strange Fire Conference with James McDonald and was handing out his book, A Call to Resurgence. The theme of the conference was cessationism. Cessationism is the view that the sign gifts (tongues, healing, etc) have discontinued after the time of the apostles. Some cessationists disagree on the topic. Some say there are absolutely no gifts available anymore whatsoever. Others say that the gifts discontinued, but that God could still cause them to occur if He so purposed to. Driscoll, being a continuationist, crashed the event, prepared to hand out and sign books and probably talk about the Holy Spirit. Continuationism is the view that the sign gifts have not stopped. There is also disagreement here within the continuationist camp, with some saying that the signs are the necessary evidence of salvation and others saying they are not.
Anyways, in a blog post entitled, “IS THE TRINITY FATHER, SON, AND HOLY BIBLE?” Driscoll wrote, “This week I am in the land of fruits and nuts — sunny California — for Act Like Men in Long Beach. Rumor has it there is a conference not far away dealing with the person and work of the Holy Spirit.” So Mark went, and started handing out his book. He even tweeted beforehand that he’d be going to the conference, would be handing out free copies of his book, and that the chapters on “tribalism and the Holy Spirit might be helpful” – perhaps with the intention of offering a doctrinal corrective to the whole thing. While Mark was there speaking to people and handing out books, security approached him. According to Driscoll, they wanted to confiscate his books. At least that’s what he tweeted. People have since suggested that he was kidding, but there’s no indication of that. According to Macarthur’s guys, they didn’t want to confiscate the books. They just told Driscoll that he couldn’t be handing out books there because the books that were already being sold at the conference underwent a particular process in order to do so. They offered to help him take them to his car. Mark told them that the books were a gift to Grace Church and that they could have them. The conference director accepted, and took them into the Grace Church offices.
Rich Gregory, Macarthur’s assistant, had this to say about Mark’s statement:
“It was great, we were happy to have him at the conference. He brought books to hand out. We explained to him that all the books distributed on campus need to be approved. He told us that he wanted them to be a gift to us from him. One of our conference directors took that gift and brought them up to the offices. If you hear from him and he wants them back, we can send those back if he wants them. We were not looking at him like, ‘Boy you’re trying to stir up controversy.’ I don’t want to judge his motives for what he wasn’t trying to do. I wish they had actually stayed for the actual content of the conference.”
Some people in attendance had commented that they thought Mark was doing this for a publicity stunt, saying that he was arrogant and acting like a child. Mark Driscoll’s actions were met with a wave of criticism. And the attention seemed to shift from the topic of the conference to Driscoll showing up. Mark should probably know the rules and regulations about handing out books at a conference. I’m not sure he’d love the idea of someone doing the same at one of his conferences. Maybe he would. Was he being respectable the way that the apostle Paul instructed Timothy to be? In an open letter that he wrote to John Macarthur afterwards, it sounded like he hadn’t intended to be disrespectful or disruptive.
What’s ironic here is that Mark showed up with James McDonald. Maybe you will remember what happened to Pirate Christian Radio’s Chris Rosebrough showed up to the Elephant Room 2 conference, hosted by James McDonald and featuring Driscoll. Rosebrough came to claim his ticket (that he paid for) and he was asked to leave. He only showed up to be in the audience, not hand anything out or sign books. Just sit there. He paid for the event and was simply going to be an audience member. When he tried to explain that he paid for a ticket to the event, he was then told by security that if he didn’t leave, he would be arrested. Just a ‘smidge’ of double standard there, dontchya think? Call me crazy, but I think maybe just maybe McDonald could see the hypocrisy in his own actions at Strange Fire, and then what he had done at his own conference. Maybe he could have warned Mark that this wasn’t the best thing to do as it largely came off as disrespectful and undignified and kind of like just one big publicity stunt to promote his new book. After all, he tweeted about it before and after, using the Strange Fire hashtag, letting people know he’d be handing out his book, and even having someone take photos and video of him while he did it.
4. Plagiarism and Ghostwriting
Now, unless you are living under a rock someplace, then you’ve probably been hearing about this next point for the last few weeks. And this is really where Driscoll shoots himself in the foot. In his book, Vintage Church, Mark had the following to say about plagiarism:
Do not speak anyone else’s messages. Doing so amounts to plagiarism, unless you get permission. Worse, it subverts God’s work in and through you… If you use the work of others, you are not a teacher, and you should quit your job and do anything but speak. (p. 105)
Plagiarism is really the death knell for any journalist. It is a form of stealing and lying. Even in college, plagiarism is enough to not just get you kicked out of class, but get you kicked out of school. Look at what happened to Shia Lebouf after plagiarizing a movie, and then an apology. People didn’t take kindly to it, and now the kid couldn’t be viewed more unfavourably. So how does this apply to Mark Driscoll? It all started when Driscoll was interviewed on the Janet Mefferd show in November of 2013 about his new book, A Call to Resurgence. During the interview, she brought up something that she noticed about Driscoll’s book – the fact that he quoted Dr. Peter Jones extensively throughout 14 pages of the book without citing him properly. Mark responded by saying “I took [Jones’] big idea and worked it out through the cultural implications but I wasn’t working specifically from his text.” Janet asked him if he thought it was important to properly cite sources that are used. Driscoll told her that he had mentioned Jones in the footnotes once, though the citation was unspecified. He assured her that he was friends with Jones and that most o what he learned from him was over meals where Driscoll failed to take notes. “If I made a mistake,” he said, “then I apologize to Dr. Jones, my friend…that was not my intent, for sure” he said.
Janet decided to press the issue: “It troubles me, though, Mark because I’ve read Peter Jones, I know Peter Jones … and this is his intellectual property and you don’t give him any credit for it.” That’s about the time when Driscoll started getting noticeably upset with her. He accused her of “having a grumpy day” and not being “Christlike” with her questioning. She rightfully pointed out that these are ad hominems (arguments against her, and not her actual argument) and saying, “You’re the one whose going to have to answer for this. It’s not right what you did, Mark… this is not just unethical, I think this is something you could be sued under under copyright law for intellectual property. I’m really concerned for the legal aspect for Tyndale House.”
The call seemed to drop, leaving Mefferd to believe he hung up, though the raw audio from Mark’s end, has him saying that he was still there. Tyndale House responded afterward to all of it by saying that they were bothered by Janet’s tone, and would look into the matter. They later said that the book met the market standards. And that was that. Well, no. Not really. At all. Mefferd came back a few days later, posting PDFs on her site of more plagiarism in another book of his entitled, Trial: 8 Witnesses From 1 & 2 Peter. She pointed out that Driscoll copied word-for-word portions from D.A. Carson’s New Bible Commentary.
Then something weird happened. Janet Mefferd removed all evidence of plagiarism from her site, and made an apology on one of her shows. “I now realize the interview should not have occurred at all,” she said. “I never should have brought it to the attention of listeners publicly.” What in the world? Ingrid Schlueter, one of Mefferd’s producers, decided to resign from her position, saying: “All I can share is that there is an evangelical celebrity machine that is more powerful than anyone realizes… you may not go up against the machine. That is all. Mark Driscoll clearly plagiarized and those who could have underscored the seriousness of it and demanded accountability did not. That is the reality of the evangelical industrial complex.” Janet Mefferd stated afterwards that her intention wasn’t to recant what she said. Rather, she wanted to respect those who criticized her tone and her approach to the whole thing. Mars Hill responded later by placing the blame on a research assistant for making citation errors. The blamed a ghostwriter.
In other words, Mark Driscoll, though the only one named for writing the book, was not the only one writing the book. Mark Driscoll was named as the only author, but he wasn’t the only author. This poses a bigger problem. In the past, Driscoll has spoken about how incredibly busy he is. And I’m sure he is. His preaching every week, traveling, and putting together books. He has made the point that he is producing thousands of pages of content a year. But why? I’m legitimately asking. Why the need to produce so much? Mark Driscoll is credited as the sole author of his books, though he has admitted to using ghostwriters. It’s a lie, but the foundation is arguably way worse. With the help of these guys, he is creating a particular image of himself. He is creating the image of someone who is doing the impossible. After all, how could someone produce this much stuff? Why the need to make yourself look more productive and more knowledgeable than you really are? I’m all for Christian books. But at what cost? Sloppy plagiarism and ghostwriting? Stealing and lying? Apparently, more of Mark’s books are being investigated, and more and more citation errors are being discovered.
5. New York Times Best Seller List
Finally, do you remember Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage that came out in 2011? It was somewhat controversial for some of its content. Mark discussed issues that some Christians consider taboo. Now it’s controversial for a whole other reason, and I don’t mean for plagiarism (although it has also been found full of citation errors). Don’t remember it? It was a New York Times best seller. And on March 5, 2014, World Magazine disclosed exactly how it made the list:
Seattle’s Mars Hill Church paid a California-based marketing company at least $210,000 in 2011 and 2012 to ensure that Real Marriage, a book written by Mark Driscoll, the church’s founding pastor, and his wife Grace, made the New York Times best-seller list.
According to a document obtained by WORLD, Result Source Inc. (RSI) contracted with Mars Hill “to conduct a bestseller campaign for your book, Real Marriage on the week of January 2, 2012. The bestseller campaign is intended to place Real Marriage on The New York Times bestseller list for the Advice How-To list.”
The marketing company also promised to help place Real Marriage on the Wall Street Journal Business,USA Today Money, BN.com (Barnes & Noble), and Amazon.com best-seller lists.
Mars Hill would not say whether the funds for the purchase of these books, which would total approximately $123,600 for the individual sales and $93,100 for the bulk sales, came from church funds.
Check out the full article [here].
Mars Hill took $210,000 and paid a company to ensure that Real Marriage would make the New York Times Best Seller list, along with some others. And it did make the list for a whole week. Mark even tweeted about the whole thing when it happened:
I wonder if he was surprised? I don’t think so. Mars Hill released a “Note From Our Board of Advisors and Accountability.” In it, they responded:
“In 2011, outside counsel advised our marketing team to use Result Source to market the Real Marriage book and attain placement on the New York Times Bestseller list… While not uncommon or illegal, this unwise strategy is not one we had used before or since, and not one we will use again. The true cost of this endeavor was much less than what has been reported, and to be clear, all of the books purchased through this campaign have been given away or sold through normal channels… All monies from the sale of Pastor Mark’s books at Mars Hill bookstores have always gone to the church and Pastor Mark did not profit from theReal Marriage books sold either at the church or through the Result Source marketing campaign.”
So, it isn’t uncommon or illegal. But it is totally manipulative and dishonest.
I leave all of this up to you, the reader. Make up your own mind about the evidence provided. Look into it yourself. Search the internet. Sooooo much more can be said here. I believe Mark should step down as a pastor. He isn’t qualified to be a pastor. Not everyone is. He surrounds himself with controversy, and perhaps at the root of that is a desire to constantly be noticed by others. And it only seems to pile up. What we have looked at are sins he has committed over the years and those he continues to do that he has failed to recognize as such. He has sinned gravely. But there is good news for Mark – Jesus Christ satisfied the wrath of God for those who trust in Him. The justice and punishment that should befall them, fell on Christ. Their sin was placed on Him and His righteousness is placed on them. If Mark trusts in Christ for the forgiveness of those sins, they will be forgiven.